"All the European words for ‘labor’ the Latin and English ‘labor’, the Greek ‘ponos’, the French ‘travail’, the German ‘Arbeit’, signify pain and effort and are also used for the pangs of birth. ‘Labor’ has the same etymological root as ‘labre’ (to stumble under a burden); "ponos’ and ‘Arbeit’ have the same etymological roots as ‘poverty’ ('penia' in Greek and ‘Armut’ in German)


$300 billion estimated job stress costs U.S. employers ...2002

"To the extent that companies can squeeze another drop of blood out of their existing work force, they're doing it. Eventually you reach the point where there's no more blood to be given, but we haven't reached it yet."

-Joshua Shapiro (an economic researcher in New York 2004)



"It is not necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do."

Henry David Thoreau


"This compulsion to work subordinates man to reduces the drives of the human being to greed and competition (aggression and possessiveness)....the desire for money takes the place of all genuinely human needs. Thus the apparent accumulation of wealth is really the impoverishment of human nature, and its appropriate morality is the renunciation of human nature and desires-asceticism. The effect is to substitute an abstraction, Homo economicus, for the concrete totality of human nature, and thus to dehumanize human nature."

Norman Brown


"There is no more fatal blunder than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living."

-Henry David Thoreau


"When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is a duty, life is slavery."

-Maxim Gorky


"Work is necessary for man. Man invented the alarm clock."

-Pablo Picasso


"It seems an odd way to structure a free society: most people have little or no authority over what they do five days a week for forty-five years. Doesn't sound much like "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. " Sound like a nation of drones."

-Michael Ventura


"Our nation has a peculiar work ethic. It insists that people work for a living, which is a valid expectation, but it does not insist that the private and public sectors provide enough jobs at livable wages for everyone who wants to work."

-Jesse L. Jackson Jr.


"No business which depends for its existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level-I mean the wages of decent living."

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt, address to Congress, May 24, 1937


"Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."

-Colossians 4:1


"The biggest change coming is the obsolescence of skills. In the old days anybody with even routine skills could get a job as a programmer. That isn't true anymore. The routine functions are increasingly being turned over to machines. As time goes on, there are fewer and fewer points where humans can work better or more efficiently than machines. Think of it as an island of competence, with the water rising around it. The island gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears. As computers get better and better, it becomes impossible for us to contribute in a meaningful way."

Vernor Vinge  (See article by Walter Russell Mead in Esquire Magazine,Dec 2002)


"It is true that we have to work to have leisure. But it is also true that until we recognize the limits of work, we will think that work is our human destiny. That's what the Marxists thought, and we know what happened to them."

James V. Schall S.J.

On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs


"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

Bertrand Russell



"All the devices for cheapening labour simply resulted in increasing the burden of labour."

-William Morris (1834-96)

News from Nowhere


   "Your work is hard. Do you suppose I mention that because I pity you? NO; not a bit. I don't pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who doesn't work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being. The law of worthy work well done is the law of successful American life."

Theodore Roosevelt



"All work, even cotton spinning, is noble; work is alone noble....A life of ease is not for any man, nor for any god."

-Thomas Carlyle


"The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world's need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get. Without this-with work which you despise, which bores you, and which the world does not need-this life is hell."

-W.E.B. Du Bois


"To work very hard like dogs and hogs for sense gratification is not the proper ambition of human life; human life is meant for a little austerity. We have to purify our existence; that is the mission of human life. Why should we purify our existence? Because then we will get spiritual realization, the unlimited, endless pleasure and happiness. That is real pleasure, real happiness."

-A.C. Bbaktivedanta Swami


"There is nothing like work, temperately pursued, to drive away the blues, dissipate mists and melancholy, cleanse the humors of the body and clarify mental horizons."

Brother Alonzo Hollister (Shaker)


"The Shakers do not toil severely. They are not in a haste to be rich, and they have found that for their support it is not necessary to make labor painful. Many hands make light work, and where all are interested alike, they hold that labor maybe, and is, a pleasure."

Charles Nordhoff


"It is in the interest of every man to live as much at ease as he can."

Adam Smith



"To do a great work a man must be very idle as well as very industrious."

Samuel Butler


"To be idle requires a strong sense of personal identity."

Robert Louis Stevenson


"It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in. One yawns, one procrastinates, one can do it when one will, and therefore one seldom does it at all."

Phillip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773)


"There is precious little hope to be got out of whatever keeps us industrious, but there is a chance for us whenever we cease work and become stargazers."

H.M. Tomlinson


"The real problem of your leisure is how to keep other people from using it."


"To work is simple enough; but to rest, there is the difficulty."

Ernest Hello


"He who neither worketh for himself, nor for others, will not receive the reward of God."

           Muhammed (Sayings of Muhammed)


"Love labor, for if thou dost not want it for food, thou mayest for physic. It is wholesome for thy body and good for they mind. It prevents the fruits of idleness, which many times comes of nothing to do and leads too many to do what is worse than nothing. A garden, a laboratory, a workhouse, improvements, and breeding are pleasant and profitable diversions to the idle and ingenious. For here they miss ill company and converse with nature and art, whose variety are equally grateful and instructing and preserve a good constitution of body and mind."

William Penn


"Faith in progress is deep within our culture. We have been taught to believe that our lives are better than those who came before us. The ideology of modern economics suggests that material progress has yielded enhanced satisfaction and well-being. But much of our confidence about our own well-being. But much of our confidence about our own well-being comes from the assumption that our lives are easier than those of earlier generations or other cultures.

I have already disputed the notion, that we work less than medieval European peasants, however poor they may have been. The field research of anthropologists gives another view of the conventional wisdom.

The lives of so-called primitive peoples are commonly though to be harsh-their existence dominated by the "incessant quest for food." In fact, primitives do little work.
Juliet B. Shor

The Overworked American and the unexpected decline of leisure


"The phrase "to accomplish" signifies a relation between my action and something else that lies outside me. Now, it is easy to see that this relation does not lie in my power, and to that extent it is just as appropriate to say of the most talented person as of the humblest of men--that he accomplishes nothing. This implies no mistrust of life; on the contrary, it implies an acknowledgment of my own insignificance and a respect for the significance of every other person. The most talented person can complete his task, and so can the humblest of men. Neither of them can do more. Whether they accomplish something is not in their power; it is, however, indeed in their power to prevent themselves from doing so. So I surrender all that importance that often enough throws its weight around in life; I do my work and do not waste time calculating whether I am accomplishing anything. What I accomplish accompanies my work as my good fortune; I certainly dare to rejoice in it but do not dare attribute it entirely to myself."

Soren Kierkegaard



"Our jobs are also called upon to provide the exhilaration of romance and the depths of love. It’s as though we believed that there is a job charming out there-like the Prince charming in fairy tales-that will fill our needs and inspire us to greatness. We’ve come to believe that through this job, we would somehow have it all: status, meaning, adventure, travel, luxury, respect, power, tough challenges and fantastic rewards. All we need is to find Mr. Or Ms. Right-Mr. Or Ms. Right job. Perhaps what keeps some of us stuck in the home/freeway/office loop is this very Job Charming illusion. We’re like the princess who keeps kissing toads, hoping one day to find herself hugging a handsome prince. Our jobs are our toads."

Joe Domingues & Vicki Robin

Your Money or your Life


"If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you were bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, but satisfied to live now according to nature, speaking heroic truth in every word which you utter, you will live happy. And there is no man able to prevent this."

-Marcus Aurelius


"Owing to the extensive use of machinery and to division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him.....Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organized like soldiers.....As privates of the industrial army....they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine."

Karl Marx

Communist Manifesto


   "Considerable attention was given to this problem in America. Bishop Henry C. Potter said in 1897 that the strikes and the saloons were understandable responses to what he termed the "mechanization" of the workman. Another clergyman wrote that the factory worker was nothing but "a tender upon a steel automaton," and that the piece system offered no satisfaction: "He sees no complete product of his skill growing into finished shape in his hands. What zest can there be in the toil of this bit of manhood?" And in England John Ruskin complained that mechanization had turned men into "mere segments of men." In other words, the problem was not just that workers only made a small piece of the final object, but that in the process they themselves were broken into pieces, as if producer and product were so closely identified with one another that they took on each other's attributes, and as if man, in making machines and operating machines, must inescapably lose his "manhood" and become a part of a machine himself."

Gaby Wood

Edison's Eve: A magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life


" was in the very nature of things impossible that the new hopes of the workingmen could be satisfied, simply because the world had not the wherewithal to satisfy them. It was only because the masses worked very hard and lived on short commons that the race did not starve outright, and no considerable improvement in their condition was possible while the world, as a whole, remained so poor. It was not the capitalists whom the laboring men were contending with....but the ironbound environment of humanity, and it was merely a question of the thickness of their skulls when they would discover the fact and make up their minds to endure what they could not cure."

William Randolph Hearst (1897)


"Work is life, you know, and without it, there’s nothing but fear and insecurity."

John Lennon


"In Communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes , society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd of critic."

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels



"Vocation finally is less about discovering our occupation than about uncovering preoccupations. We can leave our work at the office, but our preoccupations ride home with us. They sleep with us too, and they dream with us. Our preoccupations are what loved ones sometimes tell us we care about more than we care about them.

   but how do we know that our pursuit of the elusive different kind of life we call vocation isn't finally just more self-seeking, the pursuit of still another envisioned self, another....well, ambition? How are the preoccupations of vocation different from those of our ambitions and our envisioned self?"

Brian J. Mahan

Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: vocation and the Ethics of Ambition



"Where the whole man is involved there is no work. Work begins with the division of labor."

Marshall McCluhan

Understanding Media



"Toil is man’s allotment; toil of brain, or toil of hands, or a grief that’s more than either, the grief and sin of idleness."

Herman Melville


"The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic-in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea-known to medical science is work."

Thomas Szasz

The Second Sin


"Personally, I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don’t happen to think it’s an appropriate subject for an "ethic."

Barbara Ehrenreich

The worst Years of Our Life



"It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"

Ronald Reagan


"Nothing makes a man so selfish as work."

George Bernard Shaw


"Many people have left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples."

Herbert Hoover (commenting on the jobless selling apples in the street)


"Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmer, liquidate real estate. People will work harder, live more moral lives. Value will be adjusted and enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people."

Andrew Mellon (U.S. Treasury Secretary ,advice on dealing with the depression)


"We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful and childhood more happy and bright. These in brief are the primary demands made by the Trade Unions in the name of labor. These are the demands made by labor upon modern society and in their consideration is involved the fate of civilization."

-1893,Samuel Gompers


"Only a handful of unreconstructed reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and of depriving working men or working women of the right to join the union of their choice."

-Dwight D. Eisenhower



"Servitude degrades men even to making them love it."



"I don’t like work-no man does-but I like what is in work-the chance to find yourself."

Joseph Conrad



""They intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are."

Aldous Huxley


"This compulsion to work subordinates man to reduces the drives of the human being to greed and competition (aggression and possessiveness)....the desire for money takes the place of all genuinely human needs. Thus the apparent accumulation of wealth is really the impoverishment of human nature, and its appropriate morality is the renunciation of human nature and desires-asceticism. The effect is to substitute an abstraction, Homo economicus, for the concrete totality of human nature, and thus to dehumanize human nature."

Norman Brown


"How many years of fatigue and punishment it takes to learn the simple truth that work, that disagreeable thing, is the only way of not suffering in life, or at all events, of suffering less."

Charles Baudelaire


"Half of the work that is done in the world is to make things appear what they are not."

E.R. Beadle


"There is abundant data which suggests not only that hunter gatherers have adequate supplies of food but also that they enjoy quantities of leisure time, much more in fact than do modern industrial or far workers, or even professors of archaeology."



"Tolerably early in life I discovered that one of the unpardonable sins, in the eyes of most people, is for a man to go about unlabelled. The world regards such a person as the police do an unmuzzled dog."

Aldous Huxley


"What is he?

-A man, of course.

Yes, but what does he do?

-He lives and is a man.

Oh quite! But he must work. He must have a job of some sort.


Because obviously he’s not one of the leisured classes.

-I don’t know. He has lots of leisure. And he makes beautiful chairs.

There you are then! He’s a cabinet maker.

-No, no!

Anyhow a carpenter and joiner.

-Not at all.

But you said so.

-What did I say?

That he made chairs, and was a joiner and carpenter.

-I said he made chairs, but I did not saw he was a carpenter.

All right then, he’s just an amateur?

-Perhaps! Would you say a thrush was a professional flautist, or just an amateur?

I’d say it was just a bird.

-And I say he is just a man.

All right! You always did quibble.

D.H. Lawrence

"What is He?" The complete poems of D.H. Lawrence





"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

Martin Luther King Jr.


"Work is a form of nervousness."

Don Herold (1889)


"True personality always has vocation: an irrational factor that fatefully forces a man to emancipate himself from the herd and its trodden paths….Only the man who is able consciously to affirm the power of the vocation confronting him from within becomes a personality."

C.G. Jung


"The body is a thing, the soul is also a thing; man is not a thing, but a drama-his life. Man has to live with the body and soul which have fallen to him by chance. And the first thing he has to do is decide what he is going to do."

Ortega Y Gasset


"I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us, like the assembly-line worker, have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people."

Studs Terkel



"…..Most people, when they are left free to fill their own time according to their choice, are at a loss to think of anything sufficiently pleasant to be worth doing. And whatever they decide on, they are troubled that something else would have been pleasanter. To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level."

Bertrand Russell


"Crudely put, the relationship between many Third World governments and multinational corporations is like that of a pimp and his customers. The governments advertise their women, sell them and keep them in line for the multinational "Johns."

Anna Fuentes & Barbara Ehrenreich

Women in the global Factory


"One cannot walk through a mass-production factory and not feel that one is in hell."

W.H. Auden

"In sum, the workers fight over bread, they snatch mouthfuls from each other, one is the enemy of the rest, because each searches solely for his own well-being without bothering about the well-being of the rest: and this antagonism between individuals of the same class, this deaf struggle for miserable crumbs, makes our slavery permanent, perpetuates misery, causes our misfortunes-because we don’t understand that the interest of our neighbor is our own interest, because we sacrifice ourselves for a poorly understood individual interest, searching in vain for well-being which can only be the result of our interest in the maters which affect all humanity."

Ricardo Flores Magon (Speech in El Monte , CA 1917)


"How can a rational being be ennobled by anything that is not obtained by his own exertions?"

Mary Wollstonecraft


"It is a general rule that man will try to get out of work. Man is a lazy animal."



"Incapacity of the masses’ What a tool for all exploiters and dominators, past, present , and future, and especially for the modern aspiring enslavers, whatever their insignia-Nazism, Bolshevism, Fascism, or Communism. ‘Incapacity of the masses’. This is a point on which the reactionaries of all colors are in perfect agreement with the ‘Communists’ and this agreement is exceedingly significant."


The Unknown Revolution


"Without work all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies."

Albert Camus


"Many sweating, ploughing, threshing, and then the

chaff for payment receiving.

A few idly owning, and they the wheat continually claiming."

Walt Whitman


"Remain independent of any source of income that will deprive you of your personal liberties."

Texas bix Bender

Don’t squat with yer spurs on


"Nothing is really work unless you’d rather be doing something else."

James M. Barrie


"When there are a large number of men out of work there is unemployment."

Calvin Coolidge


"There is nothing better for man that they should be happy in their work, for that is what they are here for."



"….I am traveling at a time when man’s soul, enslaved to the machine and to hunger, struggles for bread and freedom. Today, the cry of the laborer-hoarse from drink, smoke and hatred-is the cry of the earth."

Nikos Kazantzakis



"they went to work with unsurpassable efficiency. Full employment, a maximum of resulting output, and general well-being ought to have been the consequence. It is true that instead we find misery, shame and, at the end of it all, a stream of blood. But that was a chance coincidence."

Joseph A. Schumpeter


"My own hopes and intuitions are that self-fulfilling and creative work is a fundamental human need, and that the pleasures of a challenge met, work well done, the exercise of skill and craftsmanship, are real and significant, and are an essential part of a full and meaningful life. The same is true of the opportunity to understand and enjoy the achievements of others, which often go beyond what we ourselves can do, and to work constructively in cooperation with others."

Noam Chomsky

Language and Politics


"Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel."



"The better work men do is always done under stress and at great personal cost."

William Carlos Williams


"Work is the only thing. Life may bring disappointments, but work is consolation."

Marcel Proust


"Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life."

Marc Chagall


"If a man loves the labors of any trade apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him."

Robert Louis Stevenson


"More men are killed by overwork than the importance of this world justifies."

Rudyard Kipling


"I have come finally to a simple philosophy of work. I enjoy what I do and do the best I can. That is enough."

Maria Schell


"All the best work is done the way the ants do things-by untiring and regular additions."

Lafcadio Hearn


"It is most important in this world to be pushing, but it is fatal to seem so."

Benjamin Jewell


"No good work is ever done while the heart is hot and anxious and fretted."

Olive Schreiner



"When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece."

John Ruskin


"The amount of time that we spend at work has been steadily rising over the last 60 years. A 1933 law limited the work week to 30 hours. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act provided for a week of 40 hours. In 1948, 13% of Americans with full-time jobs worked more than 49 hours a week. By 1989, the Bureau of Labor statistics estimated that of 88 million Americans with full time jobs, 24% worked more than 49 hours a week."

Juliet B. Schor

The Overworked American: The unexpected Decline of Leisure


Manufacturing employees in the U.S. work 320 more hours-the equivalent of two months more-than their counterparts in Germany and France.


"An "unemployed" existence is a worse negation of life than death itself."

Jose Ortega Y Gasset

The Revolt of the Masses


"Not only our future economic soundness but the very soundness of our democratic institutions depends on the determination of our government to give employment to idle men."

Franklin D. Roosevelt

"fireside Chat, radio broadcast 14 April, 1938"



"Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders."

Ronald Reagan


" A man who has no office to go to-I don’t care who he is-is a trial of which you can have no conception."

George Bernard Shaw


"Continuity of purpose is one of the most essential ingredients of happiness in the long run, and for most men this comes chiefly through their work."

Bertrand Russell


"Without some goal and some effort to reach it, no man can live."

Fyodor Dostoevski


"Modern life has no more tragical figure than the gaunt, hungry laborer wandering about the crowded centers of industry and wealth, begging in vain for permission to share in that industry and to contribute to that wealth: asking, in return, not the comforts and luxuries of civilized life, but the rough food and shelter for himself and family which would be practically secured to him in the rudest form of savage society."

John Hobson


"In human societies , extremes of wealth and poverty are chief sources of evil."



"Work is the only practical consolation for having been born."

John Updike


"We must respect those above us. It pays. Be loyal to your employer. Don’t be fooled by wrong talk. Speak well of your bosses to other workmen."

U.S. Department of Labor Federal Citizenship

Textbook, 1925


"To those who sweat for their daily bread, leisure is a longed for sweet-until they get it….there is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and abundance without dread."



"Work and living have become more pointless and empty….our life activities have become plastic, vicarious, and false to our genuine needs."

Charles Reich


"Work is God for the compulsive worker, and nothing gets in the way of this God."

Diane Fassel

Working ourselves to Death


Arbeit Macht Frei (Work shall set you free" written on the gates of Auschwitz) could now be written on the planet earth.) aa


"Whoever is slack in his work is brother to him that destroys."

Prov, 18,9

OSHEK is the Hebrew word meaning: "taking advantage of the worker."


"The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. And we will worship something-have no doubt of that either. We may think that our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of the heart-but it will out. That which dominates our imagination and our thoughts will determine our life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we are worshipping, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming."

Gates of Prayer (Jewish Reform Movements Prayer book)


"Man was made to do his daily work with his muscles; but see him now, like a fly on flypaper, seated for eight hours, motionless at a desk."

Jacques Ellul

The Technological Society


"This frenzied activity which has us all, rich and poor, weak and powerful, in its grip-where is it leading us?"

Jacques Ellul



"There are Two things in life which it seems to me all men want and very few ever get (because both of them belong to the domain of the spiritual) and they are health and freedom. The druggist, the doctor, the surgeon are all powerless to give health; money, power, security, do not give freedom. Education can never provide wisdom, nor churches religion, nor wealth happiness, nor security peace. What is the meaning of our activity then? To what end?"

Jacques Ellul


"There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it."

John W. Raper


"A useless life is a living death."



"Servants of time are slaves of slaves

The servant of God alone is free

When each one therefore seeks his lot

My soul says, ‘God my lot shall be’"

Yehuda Halevi (medieval Spanish/Jewish Theologian & Poet)


"I shall not write (after all, so many others already have) about the difference between conditions of work today and in the past-how today’s work is less fatiguing and of shorter duration, on the one hand, but, on the other, is an aimless useless, and callous business, tied to a clock, an absurdity profoundly felt and resented by the workers whose labor no longer has anything in common with what was traditionally called work."

Jacques Ellul

The Technological Society



"Don’t compete!-Competition is always injurious to the species, and you have plenty of resources to avoid it.!"

P. Kropotkin

Mutual Aid * 1902


"All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he loves America, yet he hates labor, he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labour, he is a fool."

Abraham Lincoln


"The strongest bond of human sympathy, outside the family relation, should be one uniting all working people of all nations, tongues and kindreds."

Abraham Lincoln


"Shadow work, unnamed and un-examined, has become the principal area of discrimination against the majority in every industrial society. It cannot be ignored much longer."

Ivan Illich

Shadow Work


"All told, holiday leisure time in medieval England took probably about one-third of the year. And the English were apparently working harder than their neighbors. The ancient regime in France is reported to have guaranteed fifty-two Sundays, namely rest days, and thirty-eight holidays. In Spain, travelers noted that holidays totaled five months per year."

Juliet P. Shor

The Over Worked Americans


Time itself had become a commodity.

"Half the work that is done in this world is to make things appear what they are not."

E.R. Beadle


"Everyman is, or hopes to be, an Idler."

Samuel Johnson


"What you do instead of your work is your real work."

Roger Ebert


"It is a sober truth that people who live only to amuse themselves, work harder at the task than most people do in earning their daily bread."

H. More


"If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it…then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers or of slaves for the lords."



"For so work the honey bees. Creatures that by a rule in nature teach the act of order to a peopled Kingdom."


Henry V


"The important thing, however, is not that work is in a sense harsher than formerly, but that it calls for different qualities in man. It implies in him an absence, whereas previously it implied a presence. This absence is active, critical, efficient; it engages the whole man and supposes that he is subordinated to its necessity and created for its ends."

Jacques Ellul

The Technological Society


"To conceive a liberated leisure means first of all to conceive a liberated labor, thus ending the mental regime that legitimizes the opposition between leisure and labor."

Vincent Bouroure & Vratislav Effenbeger

La Civilisation Surrealists


"When men question not the fruits of toil but the toil itself, then philosophy in Marx’s sense of human activity has become actual.

Charles H. Kerr C.L.R. James

State Capitalism & world Revolution


"…The workers of the world must unite in struggle against the dehumanizing system of work-against the whole social process that kills the freedom and natural creativity of individuals. The bosses war against leisure must give way to the workers’ war against work."

Joseph Jablonski

Intro the The Right to be Lazy by Paul LarFargue


"Men work simply in order to escape the depressing agony of contemplating life…their work, like their play, is a mumbo jumbo that serves them by permitting them to escape from reality."

H.L. Mencken


"I am of the opinion that inner happiness is impossible without idleness."

Anton Chekhov


"All economic growth inevitably degrades the utilizations value of the environment."

Ivan Illich

Shadow Work


"The under classes are now made up of those who must consume the counterproductive packages and ministrations of their self-appointed tutors; the privileged are those who are free to refuse them."

Ivan Illich

Shadow Work


"Gender-specific tasks are not new; al known societies assign sex-specific work roles. For example, hay may be cut by men, raked by women, gathered by ;men, loaded by women, carted away by men, fed to cows by women and to horses by men. But no matter how much we search other cultures, we cannot find the contemporary division between two forms of work, one paid and the other unpaid, one credited as productive and the other concerned with reproduction and consumption, one considered heavy and the other light, one demanding special qualification and the other not,…one given high social prestige and the other relegated to ‘private’ matters. Both are equally fundamental in the industrial mode of production. They differ in that the surplus paid from work is taxed directly by the employer, while the added value of unpaid work reaches him only via wage work. Nowhere can we find this economic division of the sexes through which surplus is created and expropriated."

Ivan Illich

Shadow Work


"Is not all work of man in this world a making of Order?"

Thomas Carlyle


"I was a young man in years, but I give you my word I was a great deal older than I am now with worry, meanness, and contemptibleness of the whole damn thing. It is a horrid life for any man to live, not to be able to look any workman in the face all day long without seeing hostility there."

Frederick Taylor

(inventor of scientific work/time management)


"What forms of human labor will still be the value after self-replicating molecular machines provide material goods in virtually unlimited quantity at almost zero cost?"

Jeffrey MacGilliray



"In the past the man has been first; in the future, the system must be first."

Frederick Taylor (world’s first efficiency expert) 1880


"Nature has made no shoemaker nor smith. Such occupations degrade the people who exercise them. Vile mercenaries, nameless wretches, who are by their very condition excluded from political rights. As for the merchants accustomed to lying and deceiving, they will be allowed in the city only as a necessary evil. The citizen who shall have degraded himself by the commerce of the shop shall be prosecuted for this offense. If he is convicted, he shall be condemned to a year in prison; the punishment shall be doubled for each repeated offense."

Plato Republic BkV


Some 115 holidays were observed by both freemen and slave in old Greece and Rome. A strange delusion possesses the working classes of the nations  Where capitalist civilization holds sway. This delusion if the love of work, The furious passion for work. The proletariat, the great class embracing All the producers of civilized nations, has let itself be perverted By the dogma of work, Rude and terrible Has been its punishment. All its individual and social woes Are born of its Passion for work.

Paul Lafargue



"Work takes all the time and with it one has no leisure for the republic and his friends."



"Most of us put a great deal of time into work, not only because we have to work so many hours to make a living, but because work is central to the soul’s opus. We are crafting ourselves-individuating, to use the Jungian term. Work is fundamental to the opus because the whole point of life is the fabrication of the soul."

Thomas Moore

Care of the Soul, A guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life


"As Foucault points out, under imperialist-class labor exploitation, and Christian doctrines of innate human corruption, the whole idea of work hand changed. Work was man’s just punishment for being born sinful. Daily work was no longer seen as seasonal-cyclic-ritual participation in the life of the earth (because it was no longer that), or as sheer productiveness of wealth, but as a moral exercise or expiation of mortal guilt. ‘Since the Fall, man had accepted labor as a penance for its guilt. ‘Since the Fall, man had accepted labor as a penance for its power to work redemption. It was not a law of nature which forced men to work, but the effect of a curse.’ At least, this is how the religious and courtly elites interpreted human work, for such a definition worked to their advantage. People had to bend their backs in endless unrewarding labor-not to provide the few in power with unearned luxury and idleness-but to pay back their debt of guilt to God. Therefore the poor, seen as refusing to work, were also refusing to be moral, refusing to be righteous, refusing to pay their debt of sin to God. This concept of human labor has ruled the Western world for centuries. The religious ideology of work as divine punishment adjusts people’s minds to accept the idea of work as an exploitation of one’s life energies."

Monica Sjoo & Barbara Mor

The Great Cosmic Mother


"Poor workers! First they’re cuckolded, and, as if that weren’t enough, then they’re beaten! Work’s a curse, Saturno, I say to hell with the work you have to do the earn a living! That kind of work does us no honor; al it dies is full up the bellies of the pigs who exploit us. But the work you do because you like to do it, because you’ve heard the call, you’ve got a vocation-that’s ennobling! We should all be able to work like that. Look at me, Saturno-I don’t work. And I don’t care if they hang me, I won’t work! Yet I’m alive! I may live badly, but at least I don’t have to work to do it1"

Luis Bunuel

(from the film Tristana)


"A man perfects himself by working. Foul jungles are cleared away, fair seed-fields rise instead, and stately cities; and withal the man himself first ceases to be a jungle, and foul unwholesome desert thereby…The man is now a man."

Thomas Carlyle


"One of the saddest things is that the only thing that a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours-all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy."

William Faulkner

Writers at Work


"Industrial man-a sentient reciprocating engine having a fluctuating output, coupled to an iron wheel revolving with uniform velocity. And then we wonder why this should be the golden age of revolution and mental derangement."

Aldous Huxley

Times Must have a Stop


"You’ll never succeed in idealizing hard work. Before you can dig mother earth you’ve got to take off your ideal jacket. The harder a man works, at brute labour, the thinner becomes his idealism, the darker his mind."


Studies in Classic American Literature


"The average worker won’t do a day’s work unless he is caught and can’t get out of it."

Henry Ford

(Henry Ford blamed the laziness of the American worker for the depression)


"Why, it’s the best education in the world for those boys, that traveling around! They get more experience in a few months than they would in years in school."

Henry Ford

(comment on the unemployed riding the rails during the depression)


Homo habilis (handyman)-Homo Sapien (wise man)


"Present day life seems to be based on a 24-hour lifestyle. The modern hero in our culture is the workaholic. Our heroes are ambitious, achievement-oriented people who fill every spare moment of the day with activities that will advance their career. No time is ever to be wasted. Leisure time is certainly expendable…"

Stanley Coren

Sleep Thieves


"There will be little drudgery in this better ordered world. Natural power; harnessed in machines will be the general drudge. What drudging is inevitable will be done as a service and duty for a few years or months out of each life; it will not consume nor degrade the whole life of anyone."

H.G. Wells

Outline of History


"They talk of the dignity of work. Bosh. The dignity is in leisure."

Herman Melville


"We work not only to produce but to give value to time."



"There is little or nothing to be remembered written on the subject of getting an honest living. Neither the New Testament nor Poor Richard speaks to our condition. One would think, from looking at literature, that this question had never disturbed a solitary individual’s musing."



"Those who earn an honest living are the beloved of God."

             Muhammad (Sayings of Muhammad)


"Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid."

Bertrand Russell


"Cut off from the worship of the divine, leisure becomes laziness and work inhuman."



"Society expects, and indeed must expect, every individual to play the part assigned to him as perfectly as possible, so that a man who is a parson must not carry out his official functions objectively, but must at all times and in all circumstances play the role of parson in a flawless manner. Society demands this as a kind of surety; each must stand at his post, here a cobbler, there a poet. No man is expected to be both, for that would be "queer". Such a man would be "different" from other people, not quite reliable. In the Academic world he would be a dilettante, in politics an "unpredictable" quantity, in religion a freethinker, in short, he would always be suspected of unreliability and incompetence , because society is persuaded that only the cobbler who is not a poet can supply work-man like shoes. To present an unequivocal face to the world is a matter of practical importance: the average man the only kind society knows anything about-must keep his nose to the one thing in order to achieve anything worthwhile, two would be too much. Our society is undoubtedly set on such an ideal. It is therefore not surprising that every one who wants to get on must take these expectations into account. Obviously no one else could completely submerge his individuality in these expectations; hence the construction of an artificial personality becomes an unavoidable necessity. The demands of propriety and good manners are an added inducement to assume a becoming mask. What goes on behind the mask is then called "private life". This painfully familiar division of consciousness into two figures, often preposterously different, is an incisive psychological operation that is bound to have repercussions on the unconscious."

C.G. Jung (1875-1961)

Two Essays on Analytical Psychology





"Finally , I’m bored with constantly doing nothing. Writing things down is a bit like work and I’ve heard people say that work makes people good and honest! So there may be a chance for me too, after all."

Dostoevsky (1821-1881)

Notes from the Underground


"While every ox and horse can find work, and is worth being fed, it is not always so with man. To be employed, to have a chance to work at anything like fair wages, becomes the great engrossing object of a man’s life. The capitalist can live without employing the laborer, and discharges him whenever that labor ceases to be profitable. At the moment when the weather is most inclement, provisions dearest, and rents highest, he turns him off to starve. If the day-laborer is taken sick, his wages stop. When old, he has no pension to retire upon. His children cannot be sent to school; for before their bones are hardened they must get to work lest they starve."

Albert Pike


"Unemployment emerges as a coherent social and economic problem only around the turn of the century. In Victorian Britain, social commentators referred not to unemployment but to pauperism, vagrancy and destitution. In the United States, such persons were referred to as out of work, idle, or loafing but rarely unemployed. In France and Sweden the authorities referred not to unemployment but to vagrancy and vagabondism. These terms betray a tendency to ascribe unemployment to individual failings and a lack of comprehensions of how aggregate fluctuations, referred to by contemporaries as the "trade cycle" affected unemployment prospects."

Barry Eichengreen

Golden Feter, The Gold Standard and the Great Depression


"The Gospels are concerned with the evil of earthly possessions, not with the praise of labor or laborers (see esp Matt. 6:19-32,19:21-24; Mark 4:19; Luke 6:20-34,18:22-25; Acts 4: 32-35)

Hannah Arendt


"What we are confronted with is the prospect of a society of laborers without labor, that is, without the only activity left to them. Surely, nothing could be worse."

Hannah Arendt


"Intellectual work is important and has an undoubted place in the scheme of life. But what I insist on is the necessity of physical labor. No man, I claim, ought to be free from that obligation."


(Who got the idea from Tolstoy , who got the idea from Emerson…and which is probably the only new idea under the sun.)aa

"I hear therefore with joy whatever is beginning to be said of the dignity and necessity of labor to every citizen."



"The Greeks and the Romans, living in a slave economy, considered use of the hands banausic and contemptible. Primitive Christianity, largely a proletarian movement, had contrary instincts which were perpetuated by the medieval monks and by their Protestant ascetic offshoot, the Puritans. But the notion that work with the hands is integral to the good life was slow to make an impression on our cultural tradition, presumably because society remained largely aristocratic or hierarchical in organization. Today we have forgotten, or can scarcely believe, the degree to which manual operations were once avoided by those who were, or aspired to be, of the upper crust.

The secret of the almost explosive originality of our times is the wiping our (save in certain cultural backwaters) of the ancient barrier between the aristocrat and the worker. Americans, whose ancestors first created a large-scale equalitarian community, should take particular pride in this reunion of the human hand and brain into their proper organic whole: the ideal image of the person is no longer the armless Venus of Melos."

Lynn White, Jr.

Dynamo & Virgin Reconsidered


"The discussion between Socrates and Eutherus in Xenophon’s ‘Memorabilia’ is quite interesting: Eutherus is forced by necessity to labor with his body and is sure that his body will not be able to stand this kind of life for very long and also that in his old age he will be destitute. Still, he thinks that to labor is better than to beg. Whereupon Socrates proposes that he look for some body "who is better off and needs an assistant." Eutherus replies that he could not bear servitude."

Hannah Arendt


"The most obvious facts are the most easily forgotten. Both the existing economic order and too many of the projects advanced for reconstructing it break down through their neglect of the truism that, since even quite common men have souls, no increase in material wealth will compensate them for arrangements which insult their self-respect and impair their freedom. A reasonable estimate of economic organization must allow for the fact that, unless industry is to be paralyzed by recurrent revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria which are not purely economic."

R.H. Tawney

Religion and the Rise of Capitalism


"And so bodily labour which even after original sin was decreed by Providence for the good of man’s body and soul, is in many instances changed into an instrument of perversion; for from the factory dead matter goes out improved, whereas men there are corrupted and degraded."

Pope Pius XI


"The rack has been abolished. But the boredom, the frightful punctuality of wheels returning again and again to the same old position-these remain. Remain under free enterprise, remain under Socialism, remain under Communism."

Aldous Huxley


"Labor and work are distinguished in Hesiod; only work is due to Eris, the goddess of good strife, but labor, like all other evils, came out of Pandora’s box, and is punishment of Zeus because Prometheus "the crafty deceived him." Since then the "gods have hidden life from men" and their curse hits "the bread-eating men."

Hannah Arendt


"I am convinced that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply."



"Still the only thing in life that’s really worth working for is the one dream that’s big enough to absorb every single ounce of strength and every other possible resource you can muster."

John Shuttleworth


If we can recover the sense that it is the most natural thing for every person born into this world to use his hands in a productive way and that it is not beyond the wit of man to make this possible, then I think the problem of unemployment will disappear and we shall soon be asking ourselves how we can get all the work done that needs to be done."

E.F. Schumacher


"Work is less boring than amusing oneself."


"It is well for a man to respect his own vocation whatever it is, and to think himself bound to uphold it, and to claim for it the respect it deserves."

Charles Dickens


"I do not believe that we have unemployment in the world at all. What we have is misemployment."

Matt Fox

Original Blessings


"He is not only idle who does nothing, but he is idle who might be better employed."



"It is not true that there is dignity in all work. Some jobs are definitely better than others. It is not hard to tell the good jobs from the bad. People who have good jobs are happy, rich, and well dressed. People who have bad jobs are unhappy, poor and use meat extenders. Those who seek dignity in the type of work that compels them to help hamburgers are certain to be disappointed. Also be behaving badly."

Fran Lebowitz

Metropolitan Life



"Let every one do something, according to the measure of his capacities. To have no regular work, no set sphere of activity-what a miserable thing it is!"



"It is a pleasing paradox that busy people-people who work to do and do it-seem to be especially interested in the world and enjoy ever aspect of it."

Annie Dillard



"Implicit in the lesson of the work ethic was the idea of control-that we create our own fate, that we are solely responsible for our destiny…..Many of those who did believe (in that) have had their dreams dashed by the onslaught of statistics, with names and faces attached, that have coursed through American business these past few years."

Randall Rothenberg



" Take so obvious and simple a thing as work. It is something that our days we have had to do. It has been explained in the past as everything from a curse for our first disobedience to "love made visible". Whatever the explanations, we have had, through history, to proceed in the sweat of our faces. In the course of that experience, we have learned some very bad things about work. Some have worked far too hard, some have begun far too soon, some have gone on far too long; some (in recent times an increasing number) have worked at jobs of paralyzing dullness, jobs meaningless in any way save for the payments (sometimes quite high payments) received.

The most obvious way to avoid the indignities , injustices, pains, and sorrows of all this hard labor is to get out of it. A considerable start has been made in this direction. The technical systems we have devised move toward the displacement in many kinds of work of human beings by machinery. It seems possible to look forward to a time, if we continue in this way, when there will not be very much to do.

Given our backbreaking history, it is perhaps altogether natural to proceed in the belief that it will be enough to lift the weights from all men’s shoulders. Acting in this faith, we have already gone far enough to create a new thing called leisure. And we have done pretty well in thinking of ways to deal with that-snowmobiles, ten-day-flights to faraway places that become steadily more like the places we left so that we may feel at home, the Green bay Packers on Monday night, Las Vegas, campers. There is even talk of continuing education. This is all very well, but it may not serve indefinitely and it may, at best, only be treating symptoms. The fact remains that we as yet do not know much about the place of work in man’s nature. Is it (even if it ceases to be stark, necessity) a perennial curse, a manifestation of love, a biological need, a neurotic necessity, or just something which under certain conditions men and women like to do? And if it is a given in our nature, in what conditions can work be performed so that it is a source of satisfaction? How, in other words, can the jobs, the machines, and the technical systems be designed to fit not so much the claims of production as the requirements of human beings? To answer such a question, we need to know much more about men and work than we do now."


Elting E. Morison

From Know-how to Nowhere


"Henry David Thoreau, who never earned much of a living or sustained a relationship with any woman that wasn’t brotherly-who lived mostly under his parents’ roof…..who advocated one day’s work and six days "off" as the weekly round and was considered a bit of a fool in his hometown….is probably the American writer who tells us best how to live comfortably with our most constant companion, ourselves."

Edward Hoagland


See article: "So hard to find Good Employers these Days" by Monique P. Yazigi, New York Times, Mon, Aug 16,1999


See Book: "The Corrosion of Character: The personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism……by Richard Sennett

"Work in the modern world of business, corrodes trust, loyalty, and mutual commitment, inflicts "demeaning superficiality" on human relationships, and even destroys people’s very identity and sense of themselves by "threatening the ability of people to form their characters into sustained narratives."

Richard Sennett (Professor of Sociology at New York University and the London School of Economics.)



by Elizabeth Olson….New York Times….Tuesday, Sept 7,1999


"And it is a way of life that has always irritated foreigners extremely. Why, one hears, don’t the Corsicans work harder, clear more of the maquis, produce more food? How dare they sit about on walls and stones doing nothing at all? The sight of Corsicans of all ages sitting about doing nothing is positively outraging to many visitors. So are the answers to their questions (though seldom given) ‘ that the Corsicans see no reason to work any harder, to grow more food, when they already have enough to eat, and that if they did they would have great difficulty in selling their surpluses. Moreover (and this, I suspect, is what most infuriates office employees on holiday), there is no one to make them work all day: their lands belongs to them, as does their time. Leisure or laziness-call it which you will-is their one luxury , tenaciously preserved in the absence of all others; a luxury so inaccessible even to the prosperous tourist that he is likely to regard it as a sin.

Yet this was men’s birthright, the world over, before landowners and employers got control of them and forced them, by threat of hunger, to labor all day long. Red Indians and other so-called savages lived like this before the Europeans took them in hand. The Corsicans may have missed many of the benefits of civilization, but they have also escaped its inhuman servitudes. And they are proud of the achievement. One evening, as a change from tale of phantoms and mazzeri my husband was giving character-sketches of the different races of Europe. "The Dutch’ , he said ‘spend their lives working as hard as possible.’ ‘Then they must be barbarians!’ the Cesari chorused, in genuine dismay."

Dorothy Carrington



See: The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency.

By Robert Kanigel


"Industry rules the world without faith or poetry. In our time it unites and divides people. It determines one’s fatherland, it delineates classes, it lies at the base of state structures, it moves nations, it declares war, makes peace, changes ‘mores’, gives direction to science, and determines the character of cultures. Men bow down before it and erect temples to it. It is the real deity in which people sincerely believe and to which they submit. Unselfish activity has become inconceivable; it has acquired the same significance in the contemporary world as chivalry had in the time of Cervantes."

Kireevsky (Russian Philosopher about 1830)


"A man who is not industrious will always have to borrow from others, and will never have things of his own. He will be envious and tempted to steal. He will be unhappy. The energetic man is happy and pleasant to speak with; he is remembered and visited on his deathbed. But no one mourns for the lazy man."

Black Elk


"Perpetual devotion to what a man calls his business, is only to be sustained by perpetual neglect of many other things."

Robert Louis Stevenson


"The labour of some of the most respectable orders in the society is, like that of menial servants, unproductive of any value," says Adam Smith and ranks among them "the whole army and navy," the "servants of the public," and the liberal professions, such as "churchmen, lawyers, physicians, men of letters of all kinds." Their work, " like the declamation of the actors, the harangue of the orator, or the tune of the musician….perishes in the very instant of its production. "Obviously, Smith would not have had any difficulty classifying our "white-collar jobs."

Hannah Arendt


"The only activity Jesus of Nazareth recommends in his preaching is action, and the only human capacity he stresses is the capacity "to perform miracles."

Hannah Arendt


"For even now , laboring is too lofty, too ambitious a word for what we are doing, or think we are doing, in the world we have come to live in. the last stage of the laboring society, the society of jobholders, demands of its members a sheer automatic functioning, as though individual life had actually been submerged in the over-all life process of the species and the only active decision still required of the individual were to let go, so to speak, to abandon his individuality, the still individually sensed pain and trouble of living, and acquiesce in a dazed "tranquillized," functional type of behavior. The trouble with modern theories of behaviorism is not that they are wrong but that they could become true, that they actually are the best possible conceptualization of certain obvious trends in modern society.-which began with such an unprecedented and promising outburst of human activity-may end in the deadliest, most sterile passivity history has ever known."

Hannah Arendt


"Work is the only occupation yet invented which mankind has been able to endure in any but the smallest possible doses."

C.E.M. Joad


"Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."

Kahlil Gibran



"Both gods and men are wroth with a man who lives in idleness for in nature he is like the stingless drones who waste the labor of the bees, eating without working; but let it be your care to order your work properly, that in the right season your barns may be full. Through work men grow rich in flocks and substance and working they are much loved by the immortals. Work is no disgrace, it is idleness that is a disgrace."



"Contrary to what some modern interpreters have tried to read into Christian sources, there are no indications of the modern glorification of laboring in the New Testament or in other premodern Christian writers. Paul, who has been called "the apostle of labor", was nothing of the sort, and the few passages on which this claim is based either are addressed to those who out of laziness "ate other men’s bread" or they recommend labor as a good means to keep out of trouble, that is, they reinforce the general prescription of a strictly private life and warn of political activities. It is even more relevant that in later Christian philosophy, and particularly in Thomas Aquinas, labor had become a duty for those who had no other means to keep alive, the duty consisting in keeping one’s self alive and not in laboring; if one could provide for himself through beggary, so much the better. Whoever reads the sources without modern prolabour prejudices will be surprised at how little the church fathers availed themselves even of the obvious opportunity to justify labor as punishment for original sin. Thus Thomas does not hesitate to follow Aristotle rather than the Bible in this question and to assert that "Only the necessity to keep alive compels to do manual labor." Labor to him is nature’s way of keeping the human species alive, and from this he concludes that it is by no means necessary at that all men earn their bread by the sweat of their brows, but that this is rather a kind of last resort to solve the problem or fulfill the duty. Not even the use of labor as a means with which to ward off the dangers of otiosity is a new Christian discovery, but was already a commonplace of Roman morality. In complete agreement with ancient convictions about the character of the laboring activity, finally, is the frequent Christian use for the mortification of the flesh, where labor, especially in the monasteries, sometimes played the same role as other painful exercises and forms of self-torture."

Hannah Arendt


"Traditional wisdom teaches that the function of work is at heart threefold: (1) To give a person a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; (2) To enable him to overcome his inborn egocentricity by joining with other people in a common task; and (3) to bring forth the goods and services needed by all of us for a decent existence. I think all this needs to be taught."

E.F. Schumacher

Good Work


"The Middle Ages, believing that the Heavenly Jerusalem contains no temple, began to explore the practical implications of this profoundly Christian paradox. Although to labor is to pray, the goal of labor is to end labor."

Lynn White

The Virgin and the Dynamo Reconsidered


"St. Benedict of Nursia, the founder of the Benedictine Order, is probably the pivotal figure in the history of labor. Greco-Roman society had rested on the back of slaves. Work was the lot of slaves, and any free man who dirtied his hands with it, even in the most casual way, demeaned himself. Plato once sharply rebuked two friends who had constructed an apparatus to help solve a geometrical problem: they were contaminating thought. Plutarch tells us that Archimedes was ashamed of the machines he had built. Senaca remarks that the inventions of his time, such as stenography, were naturally the work of slaves, since slaves alone were concerned with such things. In the classical tradition there is scarcely a hint of the dignity of labor. The provision of Benedict, himself an aristocrat, that his monks should work in fields and shops therefore marks a revolutionary reversal of the traditional attitude toward labor; it is a high peak along the watershed separating the modern from the ancient world. For the Benedictine monks regarded manual labor not as a mere regrettable necessity of their corporate life but rather as an integral and spiritually valuable part of their discipline. During the Middle Ages the general reverence for the laboring monks did much to increase the prestige of labor and the self-respect of the laborer. Moreover, since the days of St. Benedict every major form of Western asceticism has held that to "labor is to pray", until in its final development under the Puritans, labor in one’s "calling" became not only the prime moral necessity but also the chief means of serving and praising God."

Lynn White jr.

The Virgin and the Dynamo reconsidered



"I never realized what a toll the fierce competition of American business and professional life has taken on many of our most talented and successful men. Many of them have simply been worked out in the struggle. Many more have all kinds of family problems they cannot leave. In a great many cases they have taken to drink to such an extent that the risk is too great."

(A member of the Nixon cabinet commenting on the difficulty of recruiting personnel for top Federal posts. N.Y. Times 1969)


"Extreme busyness, whether at school or college kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellow into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they cannot be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mil. When they do not require to go to the office, the whole breathing world is a blur to them."


Robert Louis Stevenson


Bosses, bureaucrats, and experts are going the way of kings, priests, and landlords."

L.S. Stavrianos

The Promise of the Coming Dark Age


"The object of the capitalist class is to develop workers who will work for their masters but not for themselves, fight for their masters, but not for their own class, and who will think just as their masters want them to think. In order to accomplish these ends, the capitalist class has secured control of almost all means of education. Newspapers, schools, and churches are owned or controlled by them in order that the minds of the workers , and more especially the minds of the children of the workers, may be controlled."

Queen Silver (Speaking at the Knights of Pythias Hall in Los Angeles on May 2,1925)



"The fact is that the work which improves the condition of mankind, the work which extends knowledge and increases power, and enriches literature, and elevates thought, is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who perform it for its own sake, and not that they may get more to eat or drink, or wear, or display. In a state of society where want was abolished, work of this sort would be enormously increased."

Henry George


"people who lead what are called live of fashion and pleasure must have some other object in view, or they would die of ‘ennui;’ they support it only because they imagine that they are gaining position, making friends, or improving the chances of their children. Shut a man up, and deny him employment, and he must die or go mad.

It is no labor in itself that is repugnant to man; it is not the natural necessity for exertion which is a curse. It is only labor which produces nothing-exertion of which he cannot see the results. To toil day after day, and yet get but the necessaries of life, this is indeed hard; it is like the infernal punishment of compelling a man to pump lest he be drowned, or to trudge on a treadmill lest he be crushed. But, released from this necessity, men would but work the harder and the better, for then they would work as their inclinations led them; then would they seem to be really doing something for themselves and others."

Henry George


"This strange and unnatural spectacle of large number of willing men who cannot find employment is enough to suggest the true cause to whomsoever can think consecutively. For, though custom has dulled us to it, it is a strange and unnatural thing that men who wish to labor, in order to satisfy their wants, cannot find the opportunity-as, since labor is that which produces wealth, the man who seeks to exchange labor for food, clothing, or any other form of wealth, is like one who proposes to give bullion for coin, or wheat for flour. We talk about the supply of labor and the demand for labor, but, evidently there are only relative terms. The supply of labor is everywhere the same-two hands always come into the world with one mouth, twenty-one boys to every twenty girls; and the demand for labor must always exist as long as men want things which labor alone can procure. We talk about the "want of work," but, evidently, it is not work that is short while want continues; evidently, the supply of labor cannot be too great, nor the demand for labor too small, when people suffer for the lack of things that labor produces. The real trouble must be that supply is somehow prevented from satisfying demand, that somewhere there is an obstacle which prevents labor from producing the things that laborers want.

"When we speak of labor crating wealth, we speak metaphorically. Man creates nothing. The whole human race, were they to labor forever, could not create the tiniest mote that floats in a sunbeam-could not make this rolling sphere one atom heavier or one atom lighter. In producing wealth, labor, with the aid of natural forces, but works up, into the forms desired, pre-existing mater, and, to produce wealth, must, therefore, have access to this matter and to these forces-that is to say, to land. The land is the source of all wealth."

Henry George


  "The Wall Street Journal, in a front-page story by Tony Horwitz, dated Dec 1,1994, describes how some of the "growth jobs' of the nineties are totally incompatible with individual freedom. In the poultry processing industry, for example, assembly-line workers labor under cramped, unsanitary, hazardous conditions. Having received a modicum of training, they must perform monotonous tasks at a rapid speed, risking their health at a wage of $5 an hour. These employees are subject to harsh work rules, company-imposed restrictions on doctor visits and injury claims, and usually lack labor union representation. Similarly, in another American "growth industry," clerical workers who process charity donations are given mind-numbing tasks with high-pressure quotas in exchange for low wages and few benefits. While they silently toil in windowless rooms-forbidden to talk, decorate their desks, or take an break except for lunch-they are closely monitored by video cameras and daily printouts of their errors.

   Horwitz characterizes these jobs as "work that is faster than ever before, subject to Orwellian control and electronic surveillance, and reduced to limited tasks that are numbingly, repetitive, potentially crippling and stripped of any meaningful skills or the chance to develop them." These jobs pay the lowest possible wages and yet represent the best or only employment available for many Americans. Grueling work for eight hours or more, with permission required even to go to the bathroom, strains the limits of human endurance. Safety violations and injuries are often ignored. Years of hard labor lead to no better future. "While American industry reaps the benefit of a new, high-technology era, it has consigned a large class of workers to a Dickensian time warp, laboring not just for meager wages but also under dehumanizing and often dangerous conditions."

Charles A Reich

Opposing the System


The reason why, in spite of the increase of productive power, wages constantly tend to a minimum which will give but a bare living, is that, with increase of productive power, rent tends to even greater increase, thus producing a constant tendency to the forcing down of wages."

Henry George



"Napoleon ended his speech with a reminder of Boxer’s Two favorite maxims, "I will work harder," and "Comrade Napoleon is always right", maxims, he said, which every animal would do well to adopt as his own."

George Orwell

Animal Farm


The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus (1913-1960)

   The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought, with some reason, that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

   If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this. Opinions differ as to the reasons why he became the futile laborer of the underworld. To begin with, he is accused of a certain levity in regard to the gods. he stole their secrets. Aegina, the daughter of Aescopus, was carried off by Jupiter. The father was shocked by that disappearance and complained to Sisyphus. He, who knew of the abduction, offered to tell about it on condition that Aesopus would give water to the citadel of Corinth. To the celestial thunderbolts he preferred the benediction of water. he was punished for this in the underworld. Homer tells us also that Sissyphus had put Death in chains. Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted , silent empire. He dispatched the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her conqueror.

   It is said also that Sisyphus, being near to death, rashly wanted to test his wife's love. He ordered her to cast his unburied body into the middle of the public square. Sisyphus woke up in the underworld. And there, annoyed by an obedience so contrary to human love, he obtained from Pluto permission to return to earth in order to chastise his wife. But when he had seen again the face of this world, enjoyed water and sun, warm stones and the sea, he no longer wanted to go back to the infernal darkness. Recalls. signs of anger, warnings were of no avail. Many years more he lived, facing the curve of the gulf, the sparkling sea, and the smiles of earth. A decree of the gods was necessary. Mercury came and seized the impudent man by the collar and snatching him from his joys led him forcibly back to the underworld, where his rock was ready for him.

   You have already grasped that Sissyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the should bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort, measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes back down to the plain.

   It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me. A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. That hour, like a breathing-space which returns as surely as his suffering, that is the hour of consciousness. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks toward the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. He is stronger than his rock.

   If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition: it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.

   If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning. When the images of earth cling too tightly to memory, when the call of happiness becomes too insistent, it happens that melancholy rises in man's heart: this is the rock's victory, this is the rock itself. The boundless grief is too heavy to bear. These are our nights of Gethsemane. But crushing truths perish from being acknowledged Thus, Oedipus at the outset obeys fate without knowing it. But from the moment he knows his tragedy begins. Yet at the same moment, blind and desperate, he realizes that the only bond linking him to the world is the cool hand of a girl. Then a tremendous remark rings out: " Despite so many ordeals, my advanced age and the nobility of my soul makes me conclude that all is well." Sophocles' Oedipus, like Dostoevsky's Kirilov, thus gives the recipe for the absurd victory. Ancient wisdom confirms modern heroism. 

   One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. "What! by such narrow ways--?" There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discover. It happens as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness. "I conclude that all is well," says Oedipus, and that remark is sacred. it echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. it teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile sufferings. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.

   All Sisyphus' silent joy is contained therein. His fate belongs to him. His rock is his thing. Likewise, the absurd man, when he contemplates his torment, silences all the idols. In the  universe suddenly restored to its silence, the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up. Unconscious, secret calls, invitations from all the faces, they are the necessary reverse and price of victory. There is no sun without shadow, and it is essential to know the night. The absurd man says yes, and his effort will henceforth be unceasing. If there is a personal fate, there is no higher destiny, or at least there is but one which he concludes is inevitable and despicable. For the rest, he knows himself to be master of his days. At that subtle moment when man glances backward over his life, Sisyphus returning toward his rock, in that slight pivoting he contemplates that series of unrelated actions which becomes his fate, created by him, combined under his memory's eye, and soon sealed by his death. Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see, who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

   I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

Albert Camus


"It ill becomes anyone today to admit that he lives without working. Since Marx and Proudhon, labor has been universally accepted as a positive social value and a philosophical concept. As a result, the ancients' contempt for labor, their undisguised scorn for those who work with their hands, their exaltation of leisure as the sine qua non of a 'liberal' life, the only life worthy of  man, shocks us deeply. Not only was the worker regarded as a social inferior; he was base, ignoble. It has often been held, therefore, that a society like the Roman, so mistaken about what we regard as proper values, must have been a deformed society, which inevitably paid the price of its deformity. The ancients' contempt for labor, the argument goes , explains their economic backwardness, their ignorance of technology. Or, according to another argument, the reason for one deformity must be sought in another: contempt for labor, we are told, had its roots in that other scandalous fact of Roman life, slavery.

   And yet, if we are honest we must admit that the key to this enigma lies within ourselves. True, we believe that work is respectable and would not dare to admit to idleness. Nevertheless, we are sensitive to class distinctions and, admit it or not, regard workers and shopkeepers as people of relatively little importance. We would not want ourselves or our children to sink to their station, even if we are a little ashamed of harboring such sentiments."

Paul Veyn

A History of Private Life: from Pagan Rome to Byzantium


"Millions are oppressed by manual work, either because there is too much of it, or because the life has been taken out of it be standardization, or because its alternate praising up or depreciation by so-called labor leaders replaces their natural attachment to their occupation by uncertainty and sometimes hatred. Many hundreds of thousands who would feel inclined to think highly of their work and realize its dignity cannot indulge the tendency because of the insecurity in which they live. When you see the traces of untimely wariness on a man's face, in nine cases out of ten, you may be sure that overwork is not to be blamed; what is to be blamed is the anxiety of not having any work to do; that has sunk the eye and pinched the mouth. Literary or artistic people with a vocation and no means are the classical instance and well deserve to be. After they become famous their historians are apt to repeat the thoughtless and heartless saw that it is good for writers and artists to be a little hungry. The fact is that wealth is injurious to art, but artists cannot live without a certain amount of success. Failure and anxiety have never been known to elicit the best from a man's faculties. Too often they have done the reverse. The man seeks refuge in misanthropy or in dissipation. If he tries the usual path to success, endeavors to make himself agreeable or popular, curries favor with rich or influential people, he loses his dignity, and the quality of this thinking deteriorates simultaneously."

Ernest Dimnet

The Art of Thinking


"Every individual mind has its assigned province of action, a place which it was intended of God to fill, and to which always it is tending. it is that which the greatest cultivation of all his powers will enable him to do best.....It may be hidden from him for years. Unfavorable associations, bad advice, or his own perversity may fight against it but he will never be at ease, he will never act with efficiency, until he finds it. Whatever it be, it is his high calling. This is his mark and prize."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


"As Americans go forth into the twenty-first century, new technology allows us to work smarter-but we are also working harder. Ask most Americans how things are really going and you are bound to hear stories of burnout and desperation. We don't hear much about that, with the national PR machine breathlessly trumpeting the message that "we are living in the wealthiest country on earth." But behind the door of every apartment, town home, brownstone, or studio of the people fueling this economy, there is a different story, one of exhaustion and foreboding, a story about the lives, family, and leisure time usurped by a continuous workload that has no end in sight."

-Handan Tulay Satirogolu Citizen Culture Magazine Oct 2004


Book: "Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity" by David Whyte

Book: "Blood, Sweat, and Tears: The Evolution of Work" by Richard Donkin

Book: "Labor's Untold Story" by Richard O. Boyar & Herbert M. Morais

Book: "The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency" by Robert Kanigel

Book: "Shadow Work" by Ivan Illich

Book: "Closing the Iron Cage: The Scientific Management of Work and Leisure"

Book: "Working Ourselves to Death" by Diane Fassel

Book: "On The Line" by Harvey Swados

Book: "San'Ya Blues: Laboring Life in Contemporary Tokyo" by Edward Fowler

Book: "End of the Line: Autoworkers and the American Dream" ed by Richard Feldman and Michael Betzold

Book: "The Many and the Few: A chronicle of the Dynamic Auto Workers" by Henry Kraus

Book: "The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising" by Robert Shogan

Book: "The Selling of "Free Trade" by John R. MacArthur

Book: "Inventing Ourselves out of Jobs? America's Debate over Technological Unemployment, 1929-1981" by Amy Sue Bix

Book: "Married To The Job: Why We Live to Work and What We can Do About It" by LLene Phillipson

Book: "Joy At Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job" by Dennis W. Bakke


© 2001



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